From Tolkien Gateway
John Howe - Gandalf the White 01.JPG
"Gandalf the White" by John Howe
Other namesBeater, Foe-hammer
LocationGondolin, various
OwnerTurgon, Gandalf
Appearance"beautiful scabbards and
jewelled hilts"[1]
Between c. F.A. 116 - F.A. 496[2][3]
Notable forWeapon of Gandalf during the War of the Ring
GalleryImages of Glamdring
"This, Gandalf, was Glamdring, Foe-hammer that the king of Gondolin once wore."
Elrond in The Hobbit, "A Short Rest"

Glamdring was a sword, said to have belonged to Turgon, but best known as the weapon of Gandalf during the War of the Ring. It was known in Westron as the Foe-hammer, and Orcs knew it as Beater.

History[edit | edit source]

Beater[edit | edit source]

Glamdring was originally borne by Turgon, the King of Gondolin.[2] He must have wielded it with strength during the Nirnaeth Arnoediad or the Fall of Gondolin, for the Orcs named it "Beater", and fled before it. Even up until the late Third Age, orcs of the Misty Mountains knew of this legendary sword,[4] so it must have done some damage.

The name most likely originated in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, where it is said that Turgon "hewed his way to the side of his brother".[5] No other tales mention the actions of the sword, and it is unknown what happened to it during the Fall of Gondolin. Turgon perished as the Tower of the King fell on top of him,[6] but of the fate of Glamdring nothing is told.

Survival[edit | edit source]

The sword survived roughly 6500 years from the Fall of Gondolin in F.A. 510 to its eventual rediscovery in T.A. 2941. In that period, it travelled from Gondolin far to the east. Much mystery surrounds this feat, but Elrond reasoned that Glamdring, along with Orcrist and Sting, was plundered again and again, or carried off to the Misty Mountains soon after the Fall of Gondolin.[2] Thus, after surviving the deluge of Beleriand in the War of Wrath, it ended up in a Troll's cave in the Trollshaws of Eriador.

At Gandalf's side[edit | edit source]

In May T.A. 2941, Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins and a group of dwarves encountered three trolls in the Trollshaws - William, Bert and Tom. The Trolls captured Bilbo and the Dwarves, but Gandalf destroyed them by exposing them to sunlight. Glamdring, along with Orcrist and Sting, were found in their cave nearby.[1] Gandalf claimed the weapon as his own, amazed by its appearance and inscription. The inscription was set in a script of runes Gandalf did not know; he needed the knowledge of Elrond for that. Elrond translated the runes and called it by its Mannish name: "Foe-hammer".[2]

Gandalf wielding Glamdring, by Donato Giancola.

Gandalf would use the sword well; its first victim was the Great Goblin. Other Orcs fled as they recognized the sword as "Beater". This meant that they had legends about two glowing swords - Beater and Biter.[4] Whether Gandalf used the sword again during the Quest for Erebor is uncertain, though it is likely that he wielded it in the Battle of Five Armies.

Gandalf bore Glamdring at his side when the Fellowship of the Ring left Rivendell in T.A. 3018.[7] He used the blade during the Battle of the Chamber of Mazarbul, and a short time thereafter in the standoff with the Balrog, during which battle his staff was destroyed.[8] After the collapse of the bridge, Gandalf and the Balrog fought on to the Endless Stair and Durin's Tower, with Glamdring being the only weapon known to be in Gandalf's possession.[9]

Gandalf's body perished there but he was sent back because his task was not yet complete. He had Glamdring with him when he met the Three Hunters; he gave it to Háma at Edoras when asked to surrender it.[10] Gandalf would continue to bear it throughout the War of the Ring, and carried it at his side when he, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin arrived at the Prancing Pony in Bree. Gandalf and the Hobbits had seen so much war at the time that wearing a weapon did not seem odd.[11]

Fate[edit | edit source]

On 29 September, T.A. 3021,[12] Gandalf left Middle-earth and sailed into the West.[13] Whether he took Glamdring with him is never mentioned, and is open to debate. It can be argued that he brought it over the Sea, as he did with Shadowfax,[14] or that it was left behind in Middle-earth, weapons not being needed in the Undying Lands.

Appearance[edit | edit source]

Glamdring and Orcrist are described as having "beautiful scabbards and jewelled hilts".[1] They would glow blue in the presence of Orcs. The "sword of Turgon" was "a white and gold sword in a ruel-bone (ivory) sheath".[3]

Glamdring by Audrey Corman

When he took the sword, Gandalf said he could not read the runes. Elrond did, however, as he was a savant of all kinds of runes.

Etymology[edit | edit source]

Glamdring is Sindarin for "Foe-hammer".[2] It is formed from the elements: glam, literally "shouting, confused noise", but used for any body of Orcs;[15] and dring ("beat, strike").[16]

The sword was also given the crude name Beater by the Orcs.[4]

Other versions of the legendarium[edit | edit source]

In 1960, Tolkien began a complete rewrite of the Hobbit adding the fact that Glamdring was covered in dark blood when Gandalf found it, explaining why the runes were unreadable until cleaned by Elrond.[17]

It is not explained in the published Hobbit why Gandalf could not read the runes. A fitting explanation would be the "Gondolinic Runes", devised by Tolkien in either 1924 or 1930. This set of Runes was first published in 1992.[18].

Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]

Glamdring in a promotional image for The Lord of the Rings (1978 film).

Films[edit | edit source]

1977: The Hobbit (1977 film):

Gandalf acquires Glamdring in the trolls' cave. Elrond recognizes the sword at first glance; perhaps he simply deduces the fact that it was Glamdring because he had identified its mate Orcrist just before. After leaving Rivendell, Gandalf notably uses the sword only when rescuing Bilbo and the Dwarves from Goblin-town.

1978: The Lord of the Rings (1978 film):

On promotional art, Glamdring is portrayed as an ordinary longsword, with no inscription visible. In the movie itself, it goes unnamed, and is considerably shorter, only a one-handed sword. Oddly it is broken along with the Balrog's sword, but reappears intact in later scenes. [19]

1980: The Return of the King (1980 film):

Gandalf does not use a sword, only his staff.

2001-03: The Lord of the Rings (film series):

Glamdring is a name given to the sword of Gandalf in the film's promotional materials, but it is not named in the films. The sword is, according to most replicas, 47 inches (approximately 120 centimeters) long[20], and does not glow blue. When asked, Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens reacted jokingly that is was due to "budgetary cuts", and they had "not enough blue left".[21]
In the films, Glamdring is depicted as a longsword-type weapon. It has a straight, double-edged blade with a very short ricasso right above the crossguard. The crossguard's prongs flare upwards, and the center of the guard houses a decorative blue gem. The sword's grip is wrapped in blue, and the pommel is elongated, broadening at the bottom. The rune inscription is engraved in the cross-guard, and adds power to the sword. With this extra power Gandalf was able to defeat Durin's Bane.[22] The actual inscription reads as thus:
"Turgon aran Gondolin tortha gar a matha i vegil Glamdring gûd daedheloth, dam an Glamhoth".
This is Sindarin, and translates to "Turgon, king of Gondolin, wields, has, and holds the sword Glamdring, Foe of Morgoth's realm, Hammer of the Orcs".[22]

2012: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

Thorin finds several swords in the troll hoards and gives one to Gandalf. In Rivendell, Elrond identifies it as Glamdring, and in Goblin-town, the Great Goblin recognizes it as Beater. It has the same design as Glamdring in The Lord of the Rings films.

Radio series[edit | edit source]

1968: The Hobbit (1968 radio series):

Glamdring is found in the cave of the trolls, and later named by Elrond. Gandalf himself recounts how it was once borne by the King of Gondolin.[23]

1981: The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series):

Glamdring is not named, and the presence of a sword is mentioned only once: when Gandalf has to surrender it to Háma.[24]

Games[edit | edit source]

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game):

Glamdring is an Elven longsword. It glows with pale light when enemies are near.[25]

2003: The Hobbit (2003 video game):

As this game focuses on Bilbo rather than the entire group, Glamdring is never named, and only appears once when Gandalf and the player (as Bilbo) have to wield off several goblins in the Misty Mountains.[26] An alternative survival theory is also given: the caves in the Trollshaws were - according to Glóin - dug by the Witch-king of Angmar during his reign in the region.[27]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Roast Mutton"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "A Short Rest"
  3. 3.0 3.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin", note 31 (in the source it is not directly identified as Glamdring)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Over Hill and Under Hill"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The White Rider"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The King of the Golden Hall"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Homeward Bound"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Chief Days from the Fall of Barad-dûr to the End of the Third Age"
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Grey Havens"
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 268 (dated January 19, 1965)
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar: Appendix C. Elvish names for the Orcs", p. 391
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", entry "DRING"
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Return to Bag End, page 799
  18. First published in Mythlore 69, pages 20-25 (edited by Paul Nolan Hyde), analysed in issue 70, pages 23-24 (by Carl F. Hostetter). See also J.R.R. Tolkien, "Gondolinic Runes", in Parma Eldalamberon 15 (edited by Christopher Gilson), page 111-113
  19. The Lord of the Rings (1978 film), "Gandalf Triumphant'
  20. The Noble Collection Glamdring,
  21. Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh (eds.), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition), "A Journey in the Dark", Director Commentary
  22. 22.0 22.1 Chris Smith, The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare, page 68-69
  23. The Hobbit (1968 radio series), "Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire"
  24. The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series), "The King of the Golden Hall"
  25. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game), Manual, page 9
  26. The Hobbit (2003 video game), "Over Hill and Under Hill"
  27. The Hobbit (2003 video game), "Troll-hole"
Weapons in Tolkien's legendarium
 Arrows:  Black Arrow · Dailir · Red Arrow
Axes:  Dramborleg · Durin's Axe
Bows:  Belthronding · Bow of Bregor · Bow of the Galadhrim
Knives:  Angrist · Barrow-blades · Morgul-knife · Sting
Maces:  Grond
Spears:  Aeglos
Swords:  Anglachel/Gurthang · Anguirel · Aranrúth · Dagmor · Glamdring · Glend · Gúthwinë · Herugrim · Narsil/Andúril ·  Orcrist · Ringil · Sword of Manwë